Big old trees almost gone forever in B.C., scientists warn

Fewer mammoth old-growth trees remain than you imagine

Picture an old-growth forest. You probably imagine towering, six-foot-wide trees carrying layers of silvery lichen and emerald moss. But according to a report recently released by three B.C. scientists, only three per cent of B.C.’s old-growth forest comprises these highly productive mammoth trees.

Almost one-quarter of B.C. forests are considered old growth, but most of it is small trees — between five and 15 metres tall — in forests with low productivity. Just three per cent supports large trees, 20 metres and taller. Provincial statistics are misleading, the report authors say, because they do not distinguish between forest types.

Tall, old trees are highly valuable as timber, making them a prime target for harvesting. On Vancouver Island, 50 per cent of the average timber harvest is listed as old-growth.

Half of Vancouver Island’s tree harvest comes from old growth, according to provincial statistics. (BC government | https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth/)

B.C.’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, states that these types of forests are naturally rare. Only a small portion of B.C.’s geography supports this type of forest, and it’s almost all logged.

“These ecosystems are effectively the white rhino of old-growth forests. They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging,” write authors Karen Price, Rachel F. Holt, and Dave Daust. The three authors are part of an independent consulting firm based in Nelson, B.C. and produced the report to coincide with the Old Growth Strategic Review initiated by the province.

The strategic review tasked two foresters with recommending new old-growth forest management policy, based on public and stakeholder engagement and studying other regions’ management practices. Their report was due April 30, 2020, but has not yet been released to the public.

RELATED: Public engagement on North Cowichan forest reserve begins this month

Old-growth forests are culturally significant for First Nations peoples, ecologically important, and in B.C., are a well-branded tourist attraction. And yet, the report argues, there is insufficient protection for such delicate assets.

Old forests have mixed physical structures, fallen logs, snags, live trees and vibrant understory combine to support diverse inhabitants — from the micro-fauna in the soil to ungulates (such as deer and moose) and bears. They also contribute ecologically by storing carbon and “collecting, filtering, cooling and transporting water, gathering nutrients from the atmosphere, providing nurse logs for the next generation of trees, and building soil.”

The report calls on the government to update forest management strategy for the current mix of forests, and to place a moratorium on old-growth logging in any area with less than 10 per cent old-growth remaining.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ConservationEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Comments are closed

Just Posted

New exhibit at Point Ellice House examines history of waste, water and privilege

Night soil scavengers in the 19th century would collect human waste and dump it around the city

Salish Sea scavenger hunt turns participants into citizen scientists

Public invited to join the Great Salish Sea BioBlitz

Coastal scenes at the forefront for July shows at Victoria galleries

From sculpture to landscape paintings, summer art is about nature

It’s showtime: Victoria theatre reopens with new COVID-19 protocols

Capitol 6 theatre and SilverCity Victoria have reopened with limited seating

Rapid bus system could increase frequency, reliability in Greater Victoria

BC Transit studies methods for improving major routes in Capital Region

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read